New Delhi: In a massive success for India’s security forces, Kashmir’s most wanted terrorist Riyaz Naikoo, operational commander of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in an operation Wednesday in the Valley’s Pulwama district.
Sources in the security establishment confirmed Naikoo’s killing. The encounter came nearly two days after the forces launched a cordon and search operation Monday in Beighpora, the Pulwama village which Naikoo belonged to, based on credible inputs.
Naikoo, an A++ category (highest among four) terrorist carrying a Rs-12 lakh bounty on his head, topped the Ministry of Home Affairs’ list of most wanted terrorists in Kashmir last year. He had also figured in a hit list prepared by the security forces in 2018.
He took over as Hizbul chief in 2017 after Zakir Musa, the successor to the group’s commander Burhan Wani, left to form his own terror group Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
On Monday, multiple teams from the Army, the Central Reserve Police Force and the Jammu and Kashmir Police surrounded Beighpora. Following the launch of the operation, fields around Naikoo’s house and a railway track were dug up over inputs about the possibility of tunnels or an underground hideout, said the sources.
The encounter began early Wednesday after the security forces were fired upon while conducting a house-to-house search.
Speaking to ThePrint, a top security official said, “He has been the most wanted terrorist in Kashmir and had escaped from multiple operations earlier.”
In January this year, Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar had said, “If we are able to kill Riyaz Naikoo, Hizb would almost be wiped out from South Kashmir.”
Naikoo’s role in Kashmir’s terror infrastructure
Born in April 1985, Riyaz Naikoo was a maths teacher in a school. In 2010, when large scale protests broke out in Kashmir following the death of a civilian in a clash with security forces, Naikoo was among several youth who were arrested for indulging in violence.
He was released in 2012 and went on to become an Over Ground Worker, who eventually rose up the Hizbul Mujahideen ranks.
Naikoo was known in the security circles to be extremely sharp in planning and launching attacks on Indian forces, including on policemen.
Sources said he ensured that he stayed in regular touch with the Hizbul cadre and even took part in the funerals of many terrorists. He used to appear at these processions wearing combat pouches and carrying an AK-47, which he used to fire in the air.
When Zakir Musa started his own terror group, Naikoo played an important role in ensuring that the Hizbul cadre doesn’t join the former’s group in large numbers.
Naikoo was also the brain behind the audacious September 2018 plan to abduct 11 relatives of police officers. The families were left off eventually after Naikoo’s father was released from custody. This was seen as a huge psychological victory for the terror group.
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